The Difference Maker By C. Michelle Bryan, Federal Protective Service (FPS) Director for Resource Management
hen we think of leaving a legacy, we are often drawn to thoughts of the tangible, such as homes, precious mementos valued because of the rich history, or money and investments in hopes of ensuring financial stability. While all those things are incredibly important, I believe that it is just as important to leave a legacy of you — a legacy that speaks to your life’s journey and how, in a world of trends and categories, you realized the importance of being different. Whether at work or in social settings, we often find ourselves trying to fit in and align with the world around us, forgetting that we possess something far more powerful than the ability to fit in: an organic ability to be different, a superpower that no one else enjoys. Our ability to exploit our differences affords us the opportunity to elevate the world around us in a way that no one else can. The question we should all be asking ourselves is not why are we different but how can we use our differences to bring about the best outcome. We are distinctly different for a reason, and that is so extraordinarily amazing. I often smile when I enter a room full of executives and no one looks like me — or, better yet, everyone is trying to be like the other — I like to say a room full of testosterone-based thinking (TBT). I think to myself, with a supermodel-like smile, “Wow, there is absolutely no one else in the room like me; yep, they need me.” I have something that no one else has. I am a superhero in my own right, and the success of many elements around me depends on my ability to leverage my differences. It’s not my intent to be better than those around me but to be the best me I can possibly be and uplift those around me. Most of my experiences in realizing that being different is my superpower occurred during conversations with my mom. She would say, “Michelle, when I want someone to just listen to me, I go to your sister. When I want results, a solution, I come to you.” Initially I was offended, but boy do I get it. Other opportunities to realize my superpower materialized during the course of my career; appreciating
24 LEGACY ARTS Issue 17 www.paragonroad.com
my superpower was more of an evolution. Our bios tell of our successes, and all the wonderful accomplishments that we have achieved during our careers, but not so much the journey. I have more than 27 years of experience clearing the path from a seat along the wall to a seat at the table, leading in high-performing organizations. I routinely sit at the table as an influencer and decision-maker with top executives across industry and government. I have worked as an effective and successful chief of staff to several high-ranking military and government officials. I am an accomplished senior executive leader with over a decade of demonstrated success in predominantly male law enforcement organizations. Most importantly, I have personally experienced the challenges with not just working in but also functioning successfully in maledominated organizations where the majority of my peers are twice retired. Sounds great, right? But what’s missing is what’s most important: my story, my journey, which leads to my true legacy: l A legacy that will help to shape the belief that, notwithstanding life’s many obstacles, there are endless possibilities in life. l A legacy that demonstrates that it’s not the what but the how and the why.
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